Baptiste!

Billionaires of Journey's End #1

What had happened was…

Last spring, as I was finishing up the first draft of Unforgettable, it occurred to me that I needed to introduce another character to help solve a plot point. At first, I thought s/he might just be a throwaway character, like the process server who moves the plot along by letting the hero know he’s being sued, then proceeds on his merry way out of the story, never to be seen or heard from again. A character so unimportant that s/he doesn’t even need a name.

But then I thought…what if I make this person an old friend of Daniel’s…what if I make this person the anchor for the Journey’s End spinoff series I’d been considering…what if I try to kill those two birds with one stone?

Could it work?

With that—voilà!—Jean-Baptiste Mercier was born.

He sprang out of my imagination and onto the page fully formed. And let me tell you, it’s a gift when that happens. I’ve experienced this a few times before—with Justus, the say-anything bad boy hero from Risk, for example, and with Noah and Jonah, the precocious eight-year-old twins who appear in all the Journey’s End books. All these characters bounded onto the page with strong points of view and plenty to say. What could be better?

In Baptiste’s case, he had a stellar audition at the end of Unforgettable, then insisted on cutting ahead of Isaiah, the next Harper brother in line for his story to be told in my Journey’s End series. I had Baptiste announce as much in the epilogue. Was this fair to Isaiah and Alyssa, who’d been waiting patiently to get together? No, but what could I do with Baptiste chattering away in my head? His voice was so loud that I couldn’t hear any other characters, much less write their stories.

So I finished Unforgettable on a Friday and started No Ordinary Love on the following Monday. Without bothering to take any time off to decompress or recharge.

And can I just say—I LOVE Baptiste! Seriously. LOVE. HIM. Does he mess some @#$% up at times? Oh, yeah. Still love him, though. His big heart is always in the right place.

And Samira is just the heroine he needs.

I wrote and wrote and wrote.

And wrote.

And wrote some more.

All through the summer and early fall.

I wrote way more than I thought I would.

Baptiste and Samira, it turned out, have a love story too big to be contained in the two-hundred-and-twenty-ish pages I’d been hoping for. They have too much to say to each other. Too many outstanding issues to resolve before they earn a happily-ever-after.

BTW, this has never happened to me before. Normally, characters and plots behave very well.

But when this book headed north of four-hundred pages, one of my writing BFFs, Eve Silver, who frequently weighs in with timely and indispensable advice, made a brilliant observation:

You don’t have one book here—you have two.

Voilà!

Introducing the two-part saga of Baptiste and Samira, kicking off my new BILLIONAIRES OF JOURNEY’S END series:

No Ordinary Love and

Beyond Ordinary Love.

Coming very soon. Both of them. At the same time.

*VBG*

Stay tuned for more details, including cover copy, excerpts and release date…

Oh, and P.S.:

I still have more of Baptiste and Samira’s story to tell. So don’t act surprised when they pop up with at least an additional novella—and possibly a whole novel—somewhere down the road. 😉

Welcome to Journey’s End!

Fun factoids about Journey’s End:

  • I started writing A Journey’s End (originally called A Journey’s End Christmas, then called A Journey’s End New Year) in 2011-12;
  • My fictional small-town was inspired by an October visit to beautiful Sleepy Hollow for a writer’s conference;
  • While in Sleepy Hollow with writer pals, we visited Kykuit (pronounced ky-cut; Dutch for “lookout”), the spectacular hillside mansion built by John D. Rockefeller;
  • I wanted my town to be in the Hudson River Valley. Also wanted it to be quaint, upscale, touristy and within driving distance of NYC, in case I needed to send some of the characters down there for an adventure;
  • I named the main street DeGroot Avenue because de groot is Dutch for “the big one”;
  • To this day, I can never recall whether it’s DeGroot street or avenue, and need to look it up every time;
  • I originally drew a map of the town because I couldn’t keep track of how far Miranda’s coffee house, Java Nectar, was from James’s outfitter, Big Sky (I’m sure you’ll be knocked on your butts by my artistic skills and stunned by my illegible handwriting);
  • I wanted the town to be welcoming and diverse, anchored by a loving family (the Harpers) with five sexy brothers all in need of wives;
  • I tried to include all the amenities that would make me want to go for a visit and perhaps stay there—forever; and
  • I sometimes wish I could hop a plane and spend the day with the characters there.

So, anyway, as I get ready to drop Unforgettable, Journey’s End #5 on Monday (so excited!), I figured it was time to commission a tourist map so that readers can see what I see. Many thanks to the talented Su at Earthly Charms for her willingness to help bring my vision to life. Let me know if you like the map!

Through the Wringer

Call me twisted, but I really like putting my fictional lovers through the emotional wringer. My favorites scenes to write? The ones where they blow up at each other, finally saying everything they’ve been holding back and trying not to face all this time. The ones where they let their repressed feelings out and suffer the consequences.

 

I’ve written some heart-wringing books in my day. The kind where I say to myself, “Self, maybe that’s too much. Maybe you shouldn’t do that to your characters.” And then I always go ahead and do it anyway. 😉 I’m thinking of Risk. Sweeter Than Revenge. Tender Secrets. Redemption’s Kiss. It’s probably no accident that two of those stories feature lost loves trying to make their way back to each other. What could be more challenging—or more rewarding?

 

And that brings me to Unforgettable.

 

Daniel and Zoya have been apart for fourteen years. They were wildly, passionately in love in college. One day they had a big blow-up, then never saw each other again.

 

Until now.

 

They hoped they were over it.

 

They weren’t.

 

Can they ever move on and love each other again?

 

Oh, I think so.

 

Once I get through with them. 😉

 

Unforgettable was tremendously hard to write. Also tremendously satisfying.

 

I hope you agree.

 

 

 

 

Kareem Gregory vs. The Llama

I don’t know about you, but I love a good fictional villain. Hannibal Lecter, anyone? I’m kind of partial to my own villain, drug kingpin Kareem Gregory. I’m sure that those of us who have read the first two books in my Deadly series, Deadly Pursuit and Deadly Desires, can agree on one thing: Kareem Gregory, is not a nice person. His misdeeds drive the entire series.

 

Is he handsome, charming and sexy? Yeah, sure. Does he appreciate the finer things in life, including expensive cars, lavish homes, fine wine and custom clothes and shoes? Yep. Is he smart? Absolutely. Does he live by a moral code? You betcha.

 

The only problem? Kareem’s a violent sociopath determined to get what he wants. That moral code he lives by? It’s twisted by his warped vision of himself as a businessman who does what needs to be done in furtherance of his criminal enterprise.

 

And while he was fun to hang around with while I wrote this series, Kareem chills my blood. I would not want to meet him. Ever.

 

I have a writer friend who swears, to this day, that I could have rehabilitated him and made him an exciting hero in one of these books.

 

My answer? Yeah, no thanks. Kareem is evil. He was born that way. Though I love a nice Walter White antihero as much as the next person, I don’t want to tackle the monumental task of making Kareem into a good guy.

 

It was hard enough to make Kerry Randolph a good guy in Deadly Secrets. 😉

 

But I had to wonder…what if there’s someone worse out there? Someone who scares Kareem?

 

As Samuel L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park, “Hold onto your butts,” Dear Readers, while I introduce you to David Martin, aka the Llama—the villain in Deadly Secrets.

 

Why is he called the Llama? Because of his unfortunate fringed haircut, protuberant eyes, giant teeth and pointy ears. Who is he? Kareem’s business partner and the Miami drug kingpin. He runs Miami, an international hub city for drugs. He has flat eyes and strange proclivities.

 

Does he chill my blood? Yes!

 

More importantly, he chills Kareem’s blood.

 

If he and Kareem ever go head-to-head, who do you suppose will emerge the victor?

 

Pick up Deadly Secrets on Monday to find out, sports fans. 😉

 

 

Let Me Tell You About DEADLY PURSUIT

With Deadly Secrets dropping less than one week from now (*YIKES!*), I’ve gotten a little nostalgic about the evolution of this series and the characters. I’ve finished telling their tales, and it’s time for me to let them go, which makes me a little sad.

 

But I’ll get over it. 😉

 

Have I ever told you the story of how the series came about?

 

Way back in 2006-2007-ish, my Kensington editor at the time, the late, great Kate Duffy (a secret teddy bear who struck fear in the hearts of many wannabes and newbies like me, let me tell you) asked me for a new proposal. Trouble had already been published, and Risk was about to hit the stands. This was back when you could still find a) bookstores; with b) lots of books in them. Kate asked me for “a bigger book.” Still romance, but “a bigger book.”

 

Excuse me?

 

A bigger book, did you say?

 

And what, pray, might that mean? Is it like Elaine’s big salad from Seinfeld? “It's a salad, only bigger, with lots of stuff in it.”

 

Kate told me my bigger book could be whatever I wanted. This sounds ideal but was, in fact, no help whatsoever. It immediately sent me into a blocked and panicked state that lasted for months and involved me spending hours staring at a blank computer screen with a blinking cursor and thinking thoughts like, “I wonder if the world wants another vampire story?” or, “I should do a paranormal with ghosts set in Savannah.” Ghosts? Me? Please. I used Crayola markers and scribbled increasingly desperate plot ideas on colored index cards and butcher paper that I rolled across my dining room floor.

 

It was an ugly scene.

 

I emailed Kate, who vetoed various ideas in her terse way. One time she said, simply, “I don’t see how that helps us.” I wished my muse would show up for work. Meanwhile, I kept staring at the ceiling.

 

At some point—and I wish I could remember where or when—I had this idea: what if a DEA agent ran afoul of a terrible drug kingpin? That could work, right? Think of how scared the DEA agent might be! Think of all the awful things the kingpin could do to him!

 

Kate liked the idea, so I wrote a proposal, which was three chapters. I really wish I could find the proposal, but I fear it was lost forever when I switched computers years ago. But I remember it in all its ridiculous glory. Basically, I took the DEA agent and put him in hiding. So far, so good. But guess where I put him? At a luxury resort in California! At the Hotel del Coronado, if I remember correctly! Where he ran into the heroine and sparks flew!

 

With hopes high, I sent the proposal off to Kate.

 

Who fairly pointed out that, since the proposal purported to be a romantic suspense, something bad should probably happen to the main characters.

 

Gee. You think?

 

BTW—as I write this, I’m seriously wondering why Kate stuck in there with me for as long as she did. WTH was I thinking? Was I thinking at all??? One wonders.

 

Back to the drawing board, aided by Kate’s pearl of wisdom about writing compelling heroes and heroines that has stayed with me ever since: “Remember that they’re smarter than we are, sexier than we are and funnier than we are.”

 

Something eventually clicked in my writer’s brain. Kate loved the revised proposal, which was the first three chapters of Deadly Pursuit in a rough form, and bought the series.

 

Ironically, Kate died after I turned in the finished manuscript. She’d been sick for a while, and I’ll never know if she had the chance to read the whole book. I miss her and hope she would have liked it.

 

So, anyway—there you have it. A series is born. I found early blurbs for all three books, and I’m posting them below. The characters are basically the same, but the romantic pairings and plot points? Eh, not so much. Even the titles have changed. Back in the day, it was going to be the Extreme series. Later, Deadly Desires was going to be Fatal Pursuit. Which, my subsequent editor, Selena James, pointed out, is pretty much THE EXACT SAME TITLE as Deadly Pursuit.

 

These editors, man. They’re good teachers.

 

Read it and laugh!

 

Meet three marked men and the women who love them…

 

After working together to put a major drug lord behind bars, former DEA undercover agents Jackson Parker, Mateo Garciaparra, and Dexter Brady were forced to enter WITSEC, have their pasts erased, move to new cities, and pretend they don’t exist.

 

Now, though, their lives flying under the radar are about to be destroyed in a big way, making them the target of hired killers who’d like nothing more than to earn the standing bounty on each of their heads.

 

This is not the right time for any of them to fall in love …

 

“I would rather feel things in extreme than not at all.”

 

–Bonnie Raitt

 

Book 1: Extreme Temptation 

 

Former attorney Jackson Parker’s life of quiet anonymity as a chef in a diner implodes when he is caught on camera coming to the rescue of beautiful attorney Amara Clarke.  Now the drug lord he helped convict has hired an assassin to kill him before he can testify in the drug lord’s retrial.  Unfortunately, Amara is fair game because assassins don’t care how much collateral damage they cause when they have their prey in their sights.  Trapped with Amara in a desperate effort to protect her, Jackson can only resist her temptation for so long…

 

Book 2: Extreme Desire

 

At the secret island wedding of Jackson Parker and Amara Clark, Dr. Mateo Garciaparra is smitten with desire for Jackson’s sultry younger sister, Jayne.  Jayne is all grown up now, and determined for Mateo to see her as a woman.  Mateo is equally determined to resist her irresistible charms.  But when she is targeted in an effort to locate the heroes, Mateo becomes her unwilling protector as they run for their lives…

 

Book 3: Extreme Passion

 

Dexter Brady is tired of running, tired of hiding.  Determined to reclaim his life and to face down the drug lord once and for all, Dexter is willing to risk everything for the chance to live free once again.  What he didn’t expect was his overwhelming passion for the drug lord’s ex-wife, who turns to him for help, or his growing need to protect her at all costs…

 

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